Instead of outsourcing her creative control to algorithms, this influencer connects directly to her community and watches her empire expand.
By Anela Malik
I’m an accidental founder. I started blogging as a hobby, aiming to build skills for a career far outside of any influencer or creative arenas. I had a phone, no real photography or videography skills, and zero expectations.
Today my platform, Feed The Malik, is my full-time business. My work spans social media content, a book deal with National Geographic, national media appearances, and a thriving paid foodie subscription community, Magic at the Margins. That community has allowed me to explore my passions, hire assistance, expand my business, and build a space that I own.
Why did I build a subscription?
I never intended to build a subscription community. I grew one out of necessity. I needed to leave my old job and took a chance on my blog as a path forward. I wanted to insulate myself from the unstable nature of brand partnership income. I was also looking for a safe space from the trolling on social media that felt like a never-ending wave of racist and sexist comments. I turned to a subscription as a potential solution to those problems.
I grew my subscription through more than a year of experimentation, playing the role of a student, seeking direct feedback, and constantly refining. Today, my subscription provides me with an arena to experiment and get feedback from folks truly invested in my work. As a creator, launching a subscription has provided some major benefits:
Independence. Because of my subscription, I’m able to pursue projects that bring me joy, teach me something new, or that my community values. Rather than being beholden to a for-profit organization, I’m creating for a different set of stakeholders: my subscribers.
Control. I own my subscription content and if I opted to, I could forgo lucrative brand partnerships and sustain my business. I want that freedom for all creators.
Safety. Fostering a subscription community of my own means that I don’t have to become mired in the hostile trolling of social media commenters. I’m able to focus on the good stuff: creating and connecting.
Tips for building thriving subscription communities
Clearly define your offer and refine your pitch.
If you can’t tell people in two to three clear sentences what they are signing up for, you’ll have a hard time making a sale. Practice your pitch over and over. Write it out, practice with friends who have no idea what you have been working on for your subscription, and hone your ability to compellingly describe what your subscribers will receive. What transformation or other benefit are you going to provide them?
You will have to be sales-y and share your offer consistently, at least weekly, on every channel you have. You may have to readjust your expectations when doing this. Sales posts on social media may not get great engagement. However, if they drive people to your community, they are effective.
Give people value beyond the content!
High-quality content is already free on social media and it seems like everything has a subscription. Those costs add up. To make your subscription worth adding a regular cost to someone’s budget, add an element to your offerings to build community and set it apart. Those offerings don’t have to be costly. You could host virtual happy hours, give members access to calls or Q&As, include personal touches like handwritten cards, and more.
Anela Malik is a writer, storyteller and influencer creating and sharing stories on "food for the body and soul," focusing on food, travel, and lifestyle content that’s timely, relevant, and deeply personal. A storyteller of the world, she has carved out a unique place for her work across multiple platforms. She has a book coming out next year published by National Geographic.